Bose Headphone Privacy: The Lawsuit and the Rebuttal

You probably saw the news reports last week. A lawsuit has been filed against Bose, alleging its Connect app, such as used with a Bose headphone, collects information on the listening habits of the user, without adequately informing the user of the full extent of the practice. The story was widely reported. The rebuttal by Bose was not so widely reported.

As reported, the story goes something like this: A lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago that alleges that Bose tracks music selections and other audio listened to on a QuietComfort 35 wireless headphone and sells that and other information. Allegedly, information is collected when the optional Bose Connect app is opened on the user's smartphone, and it is sent to third parties. The lawsuit claims that other Bose Bluetooth products engage in the same function, and the lawsuit seeks to halt the practice, and to claim damages in a class-action lawsuit.

Bose responded front and center on their home page. Some quotes: "We'll fight the inflammatory, misleading allegations made against us through the legal system... In the Bose Connect App, we don't wiretap your communications, we don't sell your information, and we don't use anything we collect to identify you—or anyone else—by name.... First, our privacy policy can be found on the Connect App. You'll find that the Connect App collects standard things to make your experience, and our products, better—like device information, app performance, and app and product usage. That includes information about songs playing on the device, volume played, and other usage data. But you have to be using the Connect App with your Bose product for that to happen. You can use every Bose Bluetooth product without the Connect App."

Are you sympathetic to the lawsuit? Or is it another class-action money-grab? Do you find the Bose rebuttal to be persuasive? Or does its wording seem narrow? Anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone else. It proves nothing. The claim of unwarranted data collecting could be true or false. In other words, let's not jump to conclusions.

The story is a good reminder that data harvesting is a common practice.

That being said, the story is a good reminder that data harvesting is a common practice. Your internet browser, your phone, your car—you name it—if it's connected to the internet, you have to view it as a non private device.

Internet-connected devices offer amazing functionality and convenience. But those benefits come with a price. Namely, almost certainly, the devices are gleaning data about you. If you understand that, and you're okay with it, then everything is fine. But if that harvesting bothers you, then you must face the question of how far you are willing to compromise, how much privacy you are willing to relinquish, to get those benefits.

Alert readers will know that technology privacy issues increasingly concern me more than say, whether the next iPhone will have a flat screen or a slightly curved screen. I apologize if I address the privacy issue issue too frequently. It just seems too important to let it slide by. Never before have such ordinary things, things like headphones for heaven's sakes, had the potential to function as eyeballs peeping through the keyholes of our lives.

brenro's picture

I would never buy anything made by Bose but considering their litigious past this will be entertaining to watch.

hk2000's picture

Of course it's a money grab! And I don't really care for Bose, but all successful US companies are always under attack.

jhanken's picture

I was a bit creeped out by this one. Probably nothing, but Bye Bye Bose Connect. I never used you anyway.